Archives

Innovation

System Migration

We have just installed a new till / PoS system into our shop.

Initial results have proved positive. The useability is good and the records appear accurate. Next week we will begin to reconcile stock activity as well.

Along side this, we are moving to Xero accounting software.  My aim is to modernise our system reporting structures and in doing so save time and improve accuracy.  Watch this space as I begin to share tangible results, progress and frustration!

 

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2014 looks bright for entrepreneurs willing to take risks!

I read this article this morning.

http://www.theguardian.com/small-business-network/2013/dec/17/outlook-entrepreneurs-2014-investors

Norwich has plenty going on and many community based groups that support start-ups.  I wonder whether there is a “gap” for incubator type spaces for SME’s and start-ups to build on the momentum that groups such as Sync Norwich have achieved this year.

Reading list!

Must try to read this before the new year.   So many business models are being shifted by the sharing economy but I wonder about the impact of a cultural lag.

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Naked Element

For a while now I have been working much more in the on-line space.  Many of my blog posts have shared experiences I have gained by working in this more entrepreneurial environment.  Over the last decade it has been fascinating to watch start-up businesses adopt tools and techniques primarily developed for the software industry and bring these into practice for much wider business development and product development needs.

In this context I was delighted to get the opportunity to become a Director at Naked Element.  My role is to offer clients a combination of project management and business management services that complement our core offering of software development.  This enables me to offer entrepreneurs and start-up organisations a cutting edge service that integrates software and business development.

We are currently looking for new opportunities to work with businesses across the UK, so please get in touch if you have a project you feel we may be able to help with.

 

 

Norman

The Testing Phase in Start-ups!

I have recently been working with a couple of start-up businesses who are going through a first phase of testing.

This is an interesting, scary, exiting, exhausting time for start-up entrepreneurs as they grapple to come to terms with how the market actually responds to their proposition.

Here’s a check list of learnings and out-takes I have picked up

– Keep the focus on usability and service – back end technical efficiency can follow later

– Test early and test as much as possible

– Don’t start testing unless you have enough resource to implement the learnings very quickly

– Don’t let technology be a barrier – simulate technology to understand its likely effectiveness

– Minimise the barriers to customers exploring your product or service even if this makes their overall experience seem more onerous in the longer term

– Being all over any customer response at all is essential

– Be agile

That’s it for now, but I’m sure I will find more things to add to the list in the next few weeks.

Are you working in the start-up arena?  If you’re interested to talk more about these issues then drop me a line – norman.comfort@getcomfortable.co.uk

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Minimal Viable Product versus Minimal Viable Business Model

During this year I have been working with a small team to build a minimal viable food brand and product for testing.  I have written about this journey under the title Project FB.  Early results appears pretty good.  We learnt lots about the product, the right recipes and flavour combinations.  We tried different ingredients and different suppliers.  We learnt more about the product than just this, we learnt how to sell it, what support you need, and how it performs in a small retail environment.  All of this is very encouraging and very valuable.

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Serious Play and Open Innovation

I have spent a lot of time in the first half of 2011 looking at innovation and new product development.  Two very good books here that I should mention on my blog.

Serious Play is all about proto-typing.  It explains the importance of modelling early ideas, both by developing concepts and by developing proto-types that people can touch, explore and become excited by.  Serious Play is about how companies can use proto-typing to stimulate ideas within the company and create innovation.  Rather than think innovative teams create innovative products, this book suggests that innovative proto-types generate innovative teams and an innovation culture within the organisation.

Open Innovation is a very interesting area which is always developing.  Although this book is academically written and therefore at times hard to read, it does offer some interesting models and frame works for creating an open innovation environment.

Although not specifically about the software industry the book discusses open source software at length and highlights many examples of approaches that can transferred to other industries.  The book offers processes for using open innovation to develop solid and effective research, technology, R&D, and demonstrates the opportunity to get economies of scale within these activites.

Two great books for people trying to develop innovation within their businesses.

Blue Ocean Strategy

A great book for anyone who is concerned with Innovation!  It is both practical and challenging and has a similar feel to the Jim Collins books I have read. The book makes the central argument that real innovation is not about developing products that compete with competitors, but that real innovation makes the competition irrelevant because there isn’t any.  So if your next big idea for business is a new product development launch don’t confuse it with real innovation.  In my experience it is surprising how many businesses genuinely do.

The book sets out a framework for analysing where true innovation may come which I think any business could use.  It essentially focuses on increasing buyer value whilst at the same time reducing costs to deliver “value innovation”.  The book describes several strategy canvassing and definition techniques to help people understand where innovation can be developed these include the value curve, four actions framework, buyer experience cycle, buyer utility map, and blue ocean idea index which helps people to benchmark your innovation.

The book covers six key principals that facilitate this kind of innovation development:-

–          Reconstruct market boundaries to find opportunities for innovation

–          Focus on the big picture of what customers really want, not the existing numbers found in existing markets

–          Reach beyond existing demand to find new customers

–          Get the business model right and thing about the customer journey to your innovation

–          Overcome key organisational hurdles that typically stifle innovation

–          Build execution into strategy – ensure your business can execute

If you like this book, try reading Seizing The White Space as a nice complement.